A HAMPSHIRE health trust has come under fire for ‘wasting’ almost half a million pounds on “unnecessary jobs” in public relations rather than vital frontline staff.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) revealed that Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust forked out £440,591 in 2013 for the salaries of 13 different roles including communications managers and environment leads.

The figures were exposed after the TPA made Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to every NHS organisation in the UK, asking to see how much public money is spent on positions they regard as “non-jobs”.

But bosses at Southern Health have defended their spend on non-clinical roles and said that the figures released by the TPA are not accurate.

The figures were obtained by the organisation through FOI requests sent to NHS trusts across the country requesting a list of all their job titles in 2013 containing any specific “trigger words” such as media, press, carbon, green and diversity.

Nationally the TPA revealed that the NHS ‘wasted’ more than £46m last year on 1,129 “unnecessary jobs” – which could have paid for 1,662 full time nurses.

Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers expect the health budget to be spent on real doctors, not spin doctors.

“The NHS employs far too many people in jobs that do nothing to deliver frontline patient care. It’s time for health chiefs to launch a war on waste and ensure the NHS budget is spent on patients rather than squandered on bureaucrats.”

A total of 13 “unnecessary” roles were identified at Southern Health, with the highest paid role being the interim head of communications and engagement, which received a salary of £50,854.

A salary of £35,244 was paid out to three communications managers and a salary of £43,414 was paid out to two heads of external communications.

Sandra Grant, director of workforce, development and communications at Southern Health, said that the information supplied by the TPA is “not accurate and did not represent the current situation”.

She added: “As well as doctors, nurses and other health workers, it takes a whole range of different professionals to run a high quality and efficient health service.

“Southern Health serves a population of 1.3 million people with a diverse range of health and social care services, and is one of the region’s biggest employers. The size and shape of our non-clinical workforce reflects this and is a vital part of our organisation.

“It is right that people expect public money to be spent wisely on their health services. That’s why we have recently carried out a review of all our support services to make sure they give good value for money.”